Friday, March 29, 2013

Stewart Island, Part I

A little orientation to begin with - Stewart Island is that large island just south of the South Island of New Zealand.  It's only 20 miles or so from Bluff, and so was a very convenient place to busy ourselves while we were waiting for weather to get down to the Auckland Islands.

We showed up knowing NOTHING about the place.  Really, the scale of our ignorance is a bit embarrassing to recall.  In Hobart we had skipped buying the references that we usually get before visiting a new place, figuring that we could get whatever natural history books, cruising guides and field guides we might need once we got to Bluff.

Those of you who have been to Bluff will understand that the joke was on us.  So we just sailed down to Stewart Island, as much to escape Bluff as anything else (more on that another time), and chucked out the pick in the first likely-looking cove.

When we went ashore we were delighted to find the place criss-crossed with walking tracks that were very kid-appropriate.

So finding a new track to walk became a primary focus of each day.

As we got farther south the tracks became less kid-appropriate.

Eventually we gave up on the tracks and resorted to the beach.

We were seeing all kinds of native birds.  Our only reference for identifying them was "New Zealand Birds", by M.F. Soper (copyright 1972), a collection of bird photos and natural history notes, and very definitely not a field guide, which we had found second hand at the coffee shop in Bluff.  But it was at least enough to tell us this was a tomtit.

I've counted it up on one hand - during our whole stay on Stewart, I spoke with four Kiwis (not counting Meri of Bluff Fisherman's Radio, who we checked in with every night).  One of the four was the skipper of the fishing boat in the background below, who came alongside for a chat before picking up his mooring for the night, and threw a bag of fresh blue cod fillets across to us.

We didn't have much luck feeding ourselves through our own fishing efforts.

Though everybody tried.

Meanwhile the days just drifted by...

...though the forecast for sailing down to the Aucklands was never quite to our liking.

Eventually we had been around Stewart long enough that it was time to think about going to Port Pegasus, a big natural harbor at the southwest corner of the island.  Getting there required sticking our nose out on the south coast of the island during some pretty unsettled weather.  It took a bit to work up the courage to do that ("Sailing along the south coast of Stewart Island as a front is coming through - is this something I should be doing with my kids?"), though we were eventually very glad we made the effort.

More on that soon.

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